Published: 21 January 2013
By RICHARD OSLEY
THE chief executive of The Armoury, a charity-run gym in Hampstead, has this evening (Monday) appeared before all of Camden's councillors with an appeal not to sell of the building.
Phil Rumbelow, the manager of the Jubilee Hall Trust which manages the gym in Pond Street, asked the council to accept their offer to buy the building rather than seek higher returns from developers likely to convert it into "luxury residential units".
During a two minute speech to a full council meeting, he reminded politicians that the gym partly served Gospel Oak, which he described as "the most deprived ward in Camden". Mr Rumbelow said: "The Armoury much more than a community gym. It is a base for outreach work. 18,000 patients come back from cardiac operations rehabiliation through our programmes. It's not a gym for lycra clad people pushing heavy weights. It's a gym for everybody."
Conservative ward councillor Simon Marcus asked Mr Rumberlow whether the gym was effectively saving Camden money through its courses.
"I've seen the amazing work you've done," he said. "I've seen people over weeks and months get younger. It was a miracle to see. The question is: how much money do you think you've saved the council with your amazing community work."
Mr Rumbelow said: "There is a danger that the council looks short term. We sell the family silver now to make the budget balance but don't think about the future. We have obese teenagers who we stop becoming obese adults and that saves the NHS fortunes in the future."
He estimated that the gym saved the council £162,000 every year, adding: "It doesn't take too long before the number add up and you soon se its amazing value for money."
Finance chief Councillor Theo Blackwell said The Armoury was on a large list of council-owned sites that the Town Hall was looking to use to bring in money to pay for repairs to schools. But he insisted that did not mean the gym did not have a future.
"It is one out of many others we are trying to raise some extra investment into our schools," he said. "Many of the property deals are with old garages that would be better in other hands. We are looking to realise some capital. In one or two cases, places that have a community aspect like The Armoury, we are looking to see if we can reach a deal. We have taken a special step to approach the board to see if we can strike a deal which will see us help us repair schools and The Armoury to get a long term asset."
He added: "The chief executive mentions Gospel Oak. There's a school there, St Dominic's, which was in a very bad state of repair and it's managed to get a two million pound investment from CIP (Community Investment Programme). Is there a way we can talk to The Armoury, preferably privately, and see how we can negotiate a way to invest in our schools and you get a long term asset? We are not rushing to sell on this. It's not going to be sold overnight. The four months we have set is a reasonable amount of time to carry on negotiations."